Making Waves: New Tech Offers EKG via Smartphone

The next time you’re at the doctor’s office, don’t be offended if he or she checks a phone: chances are, they’re not checking how many likes their recent trip to Sonoma got on Facebook.

Start-up company Eko Devices recently had a digital device approved by the FDA that attaches to a conventional stethoscope. The device records, amplifies, and wirelessly sends heart sounds and waves to an iPhone application. The device goes on sale for $199 in early September. A complete stethoscope with the same capabilities will sell for $299.

Improving Continuum of Care

The device allows heart data to be transmitted wirelessly to a hospital’s electronic medical records system, making it easier for doctor’s to discern differences in heart patterns from previous exams. Additionally, doctors who don’t have as much experience in identifying subtle differences in arrhythmias can amplify and slow heart sounds to identify different heart conditions.

Saving Money and Lives

While the device is only being marketed to physicians as of now, in the future anyone with a smartphone may be able to purchase a stethoscope. This could be an invaluable tool for patients who suffer from potentially fatal heart arrhythmias like Long QT Syndrome. At the initial onset of symptoms, a patient can record their heart sounds and send ahead to their provider, who will be better prepared to start immediate treatment when they arrive.

The stethoscope was invented in 1819 by French physician Renee Laennec. Consisting of a hollow wooden tube, the doctor created the tool to diagnose women with heart palpitations, without having to deal with the embarrassing prospect of resting his head directly against their chests. He soon discovered that listening through his device was far superior to an ear to the chest.

The stethoscope has come a long way in its 200 years and will continue to save lives at the speed of technological advancement.

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